Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Pastoral Letter on Child Refugees from the National Leaders of the United Church of Christ

An Open Letter on Child Refugees

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Council of Conference Ministers of the United Church of Christ and the Collegium of Officers offer this open letter to the church in response to the flood of child refugees coming to the United States from Central America. We write it in solidarity with our sister churches in the Southern California/Nevada Conference, the Southwest Conference, and the South Central Conference whose boundaries are coterminous with our neighbors to the South.

We have all been watching over the last weeks child refugees by the tens of thousands risk life and limb to flee violence and poverty in their homeland, hoping to find safety in America. The story of this land being rich with possibility can be heard even by children in far away lands. It is the same story that we heard with pride when we were children. It stirs their hearts, as it did ours, and compels them to leave everything behind except for the hope that it might be true.

It is fast becoming apparent, however, that the collective will to care for these children is far below whatever expectations they might have had. For them, the story that fostered such hope is met with profound disappointment as once in the US they are being detained, disgraced, and deported – treated more like criminals, terrorists, and threats than children, refugees, and victims of unspeakable horror.

As leaders in this denomination, we stand in solidarity with the children who seek refuge here. Our churches are fast becoming part of a network built to respond to these overwhelming needs. We cannot meet these needs alone. We are seeking to forge partnerships with those who are just as moved by the courage and suffering of these children, and who wish to extend to them love, comfort, and justice.

Deeply aware not just of our own immigrant stories and roots, but also of the clear biblical imperative to care for the stranger in our midst, we invite all settings and all leaders of the United Church of Christ to respond in any of the following ways:

• Pray for the children who seek refuge across our southern border, and see in them the face of Christ;
• Support with your donations organizations that house, clothe, feed, educate, and provide medical care to the refugee children;
• Write to your elected Representatives and share with them your concern for these children, asking them not to see them as a threat to us or as criminals;
• Stay alert to emerging opportunities to respond to the needs of the refugee children. One good source can be found here on the UCC website.
• Prayerfully consider sermons, newsletter articles, adult and youth classes that articulate a narrative of care for the stranger and alien among us.

The United Church of Christ has a long and proud history of demonstrating courage in the struggle for justice and peace. Now, as ever, our resolve is being tested. It is with a good deal of hope and courage that we face this injustice. Let the actions forged by our compassion silence the voices of hatred and fear that ring right now in the ears of these precious children of God. Let them know we are Christians by our love.

We are one with you in Christ.


The United Church of Christ Collegium of Officers and the Council of Conference Ministers

The Great Martha And The Vandellas: You've Been In Love Too Long: Your Wednesday Afternoon Ear Wrom

And this is one rare case when the cover was pretty good too.

Pre-post update:  Got sent home so I won't cough on the customers anymore.   I'll post this, take a pill to knock myself out with and go to bed.

John Coltrane At Noon

The notes say that this is the only surviving footage of the one time that John Coltrane performed his great meditation, A Love Supreme, in a public concert.

Here he is with a septet including Theolius Monk playing Abide With Me

And for no reason other than I just thought of it,  Carl Ruggle's one and only extant hymn tune, Exaltation, sung with the words to O God Our Help In Ages Past, as he suggested.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bela Bartok

Joyce Yang Joseph Kalichstein Pianos
Markus Rhoten Timpany Steven Schick Percussion

Listening to this again right now, I'm struck that Steven Schick played the xylophone more subtly than in any other performance of this I've heard. I love being able to watch all of them play.  Really virtuoso playing for all of them. 

Jimmy Webb At Noon

Somewhere Jimmy Webb said, Well, I didn't want it to be about a rich guy!  I wanted it to be about an ordinary fellow. Billy Joel came pretty close one time when he said 'Wichita Lineman' is 'a simple song about an ordinary man thinking extraordinary thoughts.' That got to me; it actually brought tears to my eyes. I had never really told anybody how close to the truth that was... you can see someone working in construction or working in a field, a migrant worker or a truck driver, and you may think you know what's going on inside him, but you don't. You can't assume that just because someone's in a menial job that they don't have dreams ... or extraordinary concepts going around in their head, like 'I need you more than want you; and I want you for all time.' You can't assume that a man isn't a poet. And that's really what the song is about.".  

Far as I'm concerned, seeing people as something other than objects of utility is what real religion is all about.   Here it is simple and extraordinary.

From his album Ten Easy Pieces.

Update:  Make that " as someONE other than objects of utility is what real religion is all about."   Bad habits of speech die hard.

Modernism As The Great Savior Is Total Crap Blessed By Academia

Salon magazine has a piece by Stephen Eric Bronner, in praise of modernism as the great bulwark against bigotry.   The piece, presenting modernism, claimed to be the descendent of "the enlightenment," is big on broad brushed generalities and short on specifics.  Typical of the generic praise of modernism,  Bronner paints with the broadest of brushes, in this essay, taken from a book, he depends on Max Weber, not on primary sources of information.   Reading his piece I couldn't help but think that his view of modernism has a lot in common with the kind of color field abstraction in which nothing is represented but you have some kind of emotional response, or are supposed to, or, among the enlightened, modernists, know that you are supposed to have a reaction and - informed by critics of a kind not unlike Max Weber - what that reaction is supposed to be.  Much as I like Mark Rothko, talking honesty about his work requires admitting that it makes no reference to real life and carries nothing back to it that increases an understanding of it.  You can't figure out what modernism's place in the world really is without going into the details of what the modernists said and did, in full detail.

Here is what I said about his piece at Salon, with some additions.  Long time readers will notice it recapitulates things I've written about, things I've researched through primary sources, of what some of the greatest heroes of modernism have, themselves said, instead of the secondary and often ideological sources said they said.

So many of the heroes of modernism have been bigots, many of them publicly, many of them in the very books in which their claim to moderny fame rests, Bronners theory depends on pretending that isn't the case.   Having studied the history of eugenics, the establishment of racism and class bigotry as science, on its massive acceptance by the most modern people of the late 19th and 20th century, persisting today and popularized in evolutionary psychology, pushed by the folks among us who consider themselves the most "modern" of people, Bronner's idea is half-baked, at best.   You have to go back and read the primary documents, written by those heroes of modernism, themselves, to discover that racism and bigotry was intrinsic to their "modern" scientific bigotry, you won't get that from the secondary crap that was written to cover up that fact.

The enlightenment didn't end slavery, many of its great figures kept slaves.
As much as modern, fashionable atheists hate the fact, slavery was ended largely at the behest of people arguing on the basis of the religious demand for justice. That's also something you can learn from reading what the abolitionists said instead of the secondary and tertiary sources that twist that to serve their ideology.

It's also telling how many of the heroes of modern literature, especially in the first half of the 20th century either flirted with or were enthusiastic for fascism and even Nazism.  Gertrude Stein, as moderny as they get, was enthusiastic about Hitler and she actively promoted and produced pro-Vichy propaganda for sale to the American market.   Stein, like many of her fellow modernists, was a rather flaming bigot, herself.  The list given by Barbara Will in her article on Gertrude Stein's fascism is rather conclusive on that point

Why were so many prominent modernist writers and philosophers attracted to fascist or authoritarian regimes in the first half of the twentieth century? A list of those who were not—Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Thomas Mann, and Robert Musil—pales in comparison to a list of those who were—Ezra Pound, William Butler Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, Knut Hamsun, Paul de Man, Louis-Ferdinand CĂ©line, Filippo Marinetti, Martin Heidegger, Robert Brasillach, and a host of others. 

Adding to those,  Gabriele D'Annunzio was hailed by no less an authority than Mussolini as the "John the Baptist" of fascism.  And  I'd mention Gerhart Hauptmann, and could name many others if I weren't pressed for time.   In an interview published in Perspectives on New Music, the great pianist and associate of Arnold Schoenberg, Eduard Steuermann, talked about how some guy campaigned with him to get an introduction to Schoenberg because he was so eager to study counterpoint with him while, at the same time, being a dedicated Nazi.  He called that kind of thing "Viennese double counterpoint".  In so far as the attachment of modernism to notably brutal, oppressive dictatorships*, scientific theories of racism and bigotry, while at the same time expressing full faith in science and "the enlightenment" such stuff is endemic to modernism.  Sometimes, as in the faithfulness of Ezra Pound's friends after and even during his disgraceful promotion of fascism, it was based in nothing higher than personal and professional attachment.

I agree with the great radical painter, Jack Levine. "It seems to me that to organize on the basis of feeding people or righting social injustice and all that is very valuable. But to rally people around the idea of modernism, modernity, or something is simply silly. I mean, I don't know what kind of a cause that is, to be up to date. I think it ultimately leads to fashion and snobbery and I'm against it."  It also leads to this kind of B.S. published by major university publishing houses.  Jack Levine was something of an unfashionable painter because he didn't abandon depiction of people, his art was entirely up to date and provided information about the real world of politics, society, arts, morals and a savage critique on religious as well as all other forms of corruption and hypocrisy.  One of his later paintings shows two women sitting in a cafe.  To me it is a perfect image of the entire business of social commentary as practiced by social critics and its place in the world.

Science, modern theories (modernism just adores theory, placing its study over that of reality) of everything are engaged in the business of destroying the planet we live on.  The resurgence of scientific racism, something that never went away, is presented as being a flower of modernism, its mouthing is one of the more up-to-date and modern things the media does.  The entire attitude of the modern is bound up in thinking and acting as superficial as any other identified movement of culture as dreamed up by university based scribblers.  It shares in the same human weaknesses as any religion or political theory, racism, sexism, ethnic and race bigotry.  It is especially prone to lapsing into those because, lacking any sense of moral absolutes, it has nothing in it to act as a break on those.  Its short-lived rejection of that was based in old-fashioned, unmodernistic horror at the products of modernism in the 20th century, the scientific mass murder in Europe and, to a far lesser extent, elsewhere in the world, the horrific wars made possible by the products of the enlightenment, science, social organization, record keeping, the enormous wealth extracted through technology, etc.  As the anti-political correctness stand - based in that most moderny of all slogans, "free speech" - proves, any correction of modernism of that sort is easily overturned by fashion and the "more speech" found to be profitable by corporations.  Corporations, themselves, are a product of modernism.

No, modernism, unsentimental, cold, calculating, measuring modernism, stripped of its inconvenient history isn't going to save us.  I'll put my bets on that most unmoderny thing of all, the Jewish prophetic tradition to do that.

* In light of what I said yesterday, I'll add the modernist enthusiasts for Marxist regimes, who conducted some of the most nearly successful genocides in history.

Update:  From the comments at Salon

GeekMommaRants 23 hours ago
At some point bigotry is some special faith one has with their own in-group.  This faith works the way religion does.

Anthony_McCarthy just now
@GeekMommaRants You do understand that your assertion about religion is a bigoted example of special faith in the holding of your in-group.  Or don't you? Edit (in 5 minutes)


LARMARCH5 21 hours ago
Archie Bunker

Family man

Union member

Knew his, and everyone else's, place

Concerned with maintaining hierarchy and tradition

Suspicious of education

Justified in his beliefs

Threatened by anyone different

Fear transposed into anger


Anthony_McCarthy 3 minutes ago

Archie Bunker

A totally fictitious person invented to assert a stereotype of white blue-collar working class people for the entertainment [and smug self-satisfaction] of other people.

Edit (in 2 minutes)


Monday, July 28, 2014

I'm Just Wild About James Markey

A while back I posted a trombone duet played by Michael Davis and James Markey.  Since listening more to James Markey I have to say he may be the best trombone player I've ever heard.   It was sad when the great Douglas Yeo retired from the Boston Symphony because he is such a good musician.  Though it is kind of pointless making comparisons of musicians who play at that highest level, Markey is a spectacular addition to that brass section.

Here he is playing

Henri Dutilleux 

Choral, Cadence et Fugato from a masterclass with Christian Lindberg.  He was 17, already pretty great back then.

Here's a piece he played a little while back which has some of the best brass playing I've ever heard.

Capriccio by Steven Verhelst 

If I were a composer I'd be writing something to send to him, praying he would be interested in it.

Here's a Youtube where he talks about playing the trombone and music, in general and his musical history and how he took up knitting and why a musician might make a good knitter (I don't knit, just for the record, or crochet or do tatting, though I can sew on a patch pretty well).   I especially like how he points out the practical usefulness of a musician being able to play the organ, professionally at a young age.  Which is one of the things I wish I'd done when I was a kid and which I suggest to young keyboard players.

And here he is playing

J. S. Bach 

Sarabande Second Cello Suite

You can hear him on this CD, playing the Verhelst piece, which I have ordered within the past hour and this one, which I'll order as soon as I can find it.  He may be the best trombone player I've ever heard and I'm a bit of a trombone fan.

They're saying we're due for some bad thunderstorms tonight, so I'll post this a bit early.

Leon Russell: Tight Rope: Your Monday Afternoon Ear Worm

I haven't played a Leon Russell record in so long that it's going to have to literally be the record, Carney, if I can get my 18-year-old post-hipster niece to let me use her turntable.   Don't know why it's been so long, I really like his music.

She's good with it, I've been playing music for her since she was an infant, "Off Minor" was once her favorite piece.  Now she's past her angry teenager music phase, we listen to a lot of the same things.  I almost fainted when she came home with a Sun Ra disc she paid more than thirty dollars for.  "It's a limited edition," she said.  Ah, to be young with disposable income.

The notes say that the song was written by Stan Kenton.  That Stan Kenton?

You have my promise I will only try to implant songs I like and respect in this series.

Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet At Noon

You Can't Save Democracy Without Breaking A Few Sacred Cows So I'll Break Some More

Now that the mixed metaphor is out of the way, apparently someone is upset that I compared sacred  Marxism with the far right the other day.

The easiest way to make my point is by saying my moment of revelation came the second I realized that any of the millions of people murdered by Stalin were as murdered as any of the people murdered by Hitler.  And the same was true of those murdered by Mao and those murdered by any of the myriad fascist regimes supported by the United States during the 1950s and 60s.  That the brutal, murdering puppet governments set up in the Eastern European countries under the banner of Marxism were as much violent occupation governments as the Central American or Iranian corporate-fascist dictatorships set up under the CIA.  In short, I'd broken through the damnably amoral and so immoral, not to mention entirely absurd, identification of alleged political positioning based on abstract economic theory as expounded in universities and learned texts and looked at the mountains of bodies of real people really murdered as if they were who really mattered.

The real measure of a governments worthiness of existing or being overturned and replaced is their propensity to prevent instead of produce murder victims.  The dead of Lenin, Stalin Mao, ... and even up to the merely relatively less bad Castro stared me straight in the eye as horrifyingly as those of Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, the fascist dictatorships supported by the United States, Britain, France, etc.

And with that came the insight that different systems of economics were only important the extent to which they produced economic justice because the distribution of wealth is also a means by which governments and societies and, increasingly under the regime of corporate fascism developing here, corporate fiefdoms, kill and enslave people for the benefits of elites.  It is the difference between them killing and enslaving people or The People instituting the forms of everyday justice when life isn't in immediate crisis.   And history proves that it is only government of The people, by The People and for The People which will produce justice in anything like an equal distribution, just as it proves that the proposed alternative of Marxism will not.  Marxism will not because it, as an atheistic system, lacks sufficient belief in or respect for the moral imperatives that underlie even the concept of justice.   Any system, atheistic or non-atheistic that denies or ignores those moral imperatives will never produce a just society, those neither believe in nor produce equal justice, legal and economic,  which is the only thing that holds together a society in peace sufficient to get the body count down.

Those insights were bound to have an effect, first and foremost in looking, hard, at the political positions I'd taken for almost all of my adult life.  Though the nuclear standoff and the truly awful things that the corporate American state under the elite that ran it also informed those, the body counts amassed by"leftist" rule should have shown me that they were nothing to believe in, either.   Ignoring that made me as complicit in those deaths as any fascist is.  And I won't be that, not any more. Not even for all of those colorful, legendary, lovable lefties we are all supposed to love as we all ignore those corpses together.


In the United States, today, I see an increasing descent into fascism, largely by means of Supreme Court rulings that purposely increase the paranoia of the beleaguered white underclass which the Supreme Court is purposely arming to the teeth.  As I have often pointed out to my fellow would-be leftists, those arsenals aren't being amassed without thought of using them against people, us, to be exact.  In that the Roberts and the Rehnquist courts are recapitulating the old pattern of the oligarchic elite, playing one part of the underclass of against another part of it, most typically along racial lines, first, but also along class lines.  The traditional white underclass who are their pawns make the irrational calculation that they will benefit more from not fighting the oligarchs but hope for a bigger share of what they leave to be struggled over among the lower classes.  White men, in particular, are the pawns of the oligarchs, instructed by hate-talk radio and cabloid TV in who to hate and how and to buy more guns and ammo, under the "free speech-free press" permission given to them by the Supreme Courts and the Ivy law school elites who have made that the most effective tool in setting up this scenario.

I am becoming more convinced that the Roberts court may, actually, be the worst court in our history.   Some believe that the horrible Taney court that produced the truly evil Dred Scott decision was afraid of initiating a civil war, though I think it was unlikely they would have abolished slavery even if that wouldn't be a necessary hell to pass through for the slave power to be defeated.  Today's court, with that historical example is creating the conditions that not only risk a far more horrific civil war, not one largely restricted to fighting by standing armies but by general insurrection in the civilian population, with modern, automatic weapons and explosives.   The perfumed men and woman - Sandra Day O'Connor - who have produced this danger are some of the most dangerous people ever to hold office in our government, in the entirely undemocratic Supreme Court appointed, not elected, confirmed by the least democratic part of our government, the Senate. I think the logic of the greatest danger to democracy arising from that least democratic of bodies, staffed with lawyers trained at the training schools of the elite, the Ivies, is clear.   That several of them belong to a fascist cult, nominally Catholic, but which is far more in line with some kind of anti-Christ philosophy than the teachings of Jesus, is pretty much a distraction from where the real danger lies*,

And in that effort they have had no greater assistance than from those pseudo-leftists who handed them the cult of the First Amendment, free speech absolutism without regard for the truth, free press without the absolute requirement that it doesn't lie and that it serve The People in their need for accurate information instead of racist propaganda with incitement to kill.  I don't believe that either the corporate, mass media and its champions in the free speech industry or the right wing that has adopted the slogans originated by them to destroy effective self-government by an informed electorate has any real belief in democracy, equality and the moral obligation to keep and protect it.   They are worshipers of Mammon and those things don't come from that god, the patron of wealth and power and the blessing of its concentration.   When the disaster comes, it will come from that direction, which is the equivalent in the American vernacular, which is the exact same thing that produces other forms in other societies with other languages and traditions and habits of expression.  If we are going to prevent it, we have to destroy those idols and they are deeply embedded in contemporary thought as deeply as the fashionable slogans of "free press", "free speech" and "the Second Amendment".   That realization that the first two were, for the ineffective substitute "left" that has brought us to complete impotence, the equivalent of the latter for those they have enabled was also an eye-opener for me.

*  I think that the Supreme Court members are about as influenced by the Catholic Church as the Papal Knight of St. Gregory, the pornographer and promoter of fascism and violence, Rupert Murdoch is.   The most rational explanation of their religion is that it is window dressing for the rubes as they all bow low to Mammon.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Brahms Piano Trio op 87

Haydn Trio Wein

The recording the Busch trio made of this in the 1930s has been my favorite but this might come in tied with it now.  I'm certainly going to be looking for the record.

I'll be taking Sunday off and this time I really mean it.  See you Monday.

Bukka White Shake 'em On Down & Parchman Farm Blues

I was going to say something snarky about Mick Jagger overstaying his three-score and ten today.  But I'd rather concentrate on the genuine and not the pale imitation. 

Update:  I should add that the washboard was played by Washboard Sam, though all of the Youtubes I found of him are too blue for my blog.

Black Train Blues

We've Got To Stop Pretending There Are Nice Guys Available To Make Peace In The Middle East

I just read this piece France's Jews Flee As Rioters Burn Paris Shops, Attack Synagogue, and thought it might be a good idea to say this again.  You can change a few names and locations and what it says would be exactly up to date.

First Posted Saturday, August 12, 2006

Israel is not going to disappear, it is not going to be driven into the sea. Just as importantly, Palestinians are not going to melt into the surrounding populations. They have remained a cohesive presence in diaspora for as long as Israel has been there. They may not have a real state and the military technology that Israel has but they are not going to disappear either. The assumption that they would was based on racism just as was the assumption that Jews, as a people, would disappear. The latest appearance of this kind of racism is found in the insane speculation that Iranians will stop supporting their despots with the encouragement of a bombing campaign against them, it is based on an assumption of innate Iranian cowardice and lack of patriotism. One thing Persians or Moslems in general have not proven to be is cowardly. Persians were patriotic before there were countries. It is to be regretted that all sides in the Middle East are too brave for their own good.

Israel will not allow itself to be destroyed, certainly not without consequences too horrible to contemplate. Israel has THE bombs. Many more than one. Whatever vicissitudes result from that fact, it is a fact. And it is almost certain that another Islamic country, if not an Islamic State will have one eventually. If they are determined they will find a way to do it even under attack, money is the only limiting factor. Pakistan, has it already and only an a psychotic would take actions that could impel that country towards rule by those who could feel divinely justified to use it.

Now that we've cut through that level of nonsense let’s get some other things straight. Neither what substitutes for a Palestinian government nor the Israeli government has clean hands. This isn't an attempt at cowardly and labor saving self-absolution from favoring a side in the dispute, it is the truth. As Howard Zinn* has pointed out, governments lie, all of them do awful things. That’s just the fact of it. Extra-governmental entities also do awful things. But it is among these awful people that ways, temporary or millennial, to stop the killing in the Middle East will have to be found. It will be a deal among killers, thieves and liars because that’s the only kind of people who are in charge. Arguing degree of rottenness is a waste of time, it’s who has the power that matters. Anyone who aspires to make peace in the Middle East had better get over their fussy and dainty sensibilities or they shouldn't waste peoples’ time. .

Today the United States has no credibility as an honest broker in the Middle East. Some past presidents had more. After Iraq and now the Bush regime’s role this past month in Lebanon it has none. It has none because it clearly and solidly has favored one side, Israel and the Bush regime appears increasingly likely to have done so for ends not necessarily in Israel’s interest. There is little rational reason for Israelis or Arabs to trust Bush.

I am beyond caring if there was a reason for supporting one side or the other in any particular action in the past. If someone can tell us a way to go back and change what happened in the past it might be worth thinking about, but there isn't one. Bringing it up is a stalling tactic, a way for cheap politicians and others to curry favor by appealing to grievances and the desire for revenge. It’s the present we can deal with and the invasion of Lebanon was dumb assed and I believe, as one of my regular readers put it so well, the Olmert government didn't have a clue it was going to go like this. The facts now are what will have to be dealt with, not what was believed a month ago.

As we began, no one side is going to disappear but many individual people are being killed as you read this. My entire interest in this is to have as many Israelis, Palestinians, and others in the area, live to be old and to die in bed of natural causes surrounded by their intact families and their friends. It is in that spirit that I am going to say the unspeakable and voice some, though far from all, of my deepest fears.

As the generation of the Second World War and it’s children pass on there is a strong danger that the Holocaust will fade from consciousness and it’s lessons will fade from peoples’ thoughts. Huge numbers of dead when viewed in the inverted telescope of history look smaller than they were close up. Our claim on the attention of the future will compete with the entire past and will be, I’m afraid, far less compelling than their present. We will not be there to press the case. The best we can do is leave a written record of what we have known. We can’t guarantee that the future won’t repeat the evils of the past.

As time goes on, as more recent piles of bodies and other horrors block them from view, even the Holocaust will fade in its meaning to those who are not part of the groups that were murdered. The relatively forgotten Armenian genocide is one example of this and the mass graves of those murdered in Central America by terrorists funded by the Reagan administration are entirely faded from the collective, active memory of the United States. The innocent Druz, slaughtered by the USS. New Jersey in retaliation for the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon never got into Americans minds having been effectively blocked out. Even where distance is not a factor, the memory of the thousands lynched here, in the United States itself, is always in danger of slipping from the attention of white people.

I am posting am anxious warning based on what I am hearing. Israelis should dump the neo-cons who are bringing them to disaster. Those idiots, from their comfortable perches in the American establishment are going to get a lot more Israelis and others killed. Let’s face another reality, a lot of them, Gentiles and Jews alike, are pretty unsavory characters who market themselves as “supporters of Israel”. Some seem to have made a very nice living for themselves based on this. Would peace be as profitable for them?

Their alliance with fundamentalist “christians” should be all the evidence you need of their stupidity if not duplicity. End timers have only two uses for Jews, especially Israelis. Jews are either to be converted to “christianity”, perhaps by force eventually, or they are extras waiting to die in their pre-enactment battle fantasies based on the Book of Revelations. As the events around Lebanon this month show, the fundamentalist ghouls can hardly wait for the real slaughter to begin. Their script calls for Israelis to die in the millions.

Failing the fundamentalists’ favorite wish, Americans of future times will grow weary of supporting Israel if it is engaged in endless wars, endless conflicts and, especially, if idiocy on the level of this war in Lebanon continues. A constantly attacked Israel will become increasingly militarized and isolated and paranoid. With that will come the destruction of democracy. A nationalistic, perhaps theocratic and despotic Israel is certainly nothing that the vast, vast majority of Israelis or Americans want to see. If someone can convince me that isn’t where it is headed I’d really really like to believe otherwise.

I have every confidence that these ideas have been thought about in Israel. I can’t believe anything I’m writing here hasn't been more fully considered there where investigating every contingency is a matter of life and death.

* See the excellent essay:
The View From History, What Nation Can Be Trusted?
Vietnam, The Logic of Withdrawal; Howard Zinn 1967

Note: The order of in which paired groups are mentioned in this post was decided by coin toss just so I could point it out for those who might be reading this through their imaginary and self-serving bias detector. Even so, I’m sick of “sides” in this discussion. Sides are getting people killed.

The Slippery Matter of Requiring Extraordinary Evidence And Atheists Who Make Up Imaginary Creatures

It's a mark of the PR success of the aerospace industry and ideology as science that some of the things I've said in the past few days have been controversial.   Even the most incontrovertible fact that every single thing said about "other life" "extraterrestrials" "aliens" from their actual existence to the attribution of atheism to them is the product of human hopes and or fears based on absolutely no evidence, would seem to be hotly resented by many.  It would seem that, for them, even saying that for all we know Earth is the only planet in the universe that has life on it, is a damnable heresy.

Among the greatest sources of the inability of people, whose public devotion to evidence could be accurately called febrile, to even imagine that hardest of truth about "extraterrestrials" I will name Carl Sagan.   For an early, if not founding member of CSICOP, the religious atheist group* dedicated to debunking a long list of officially prohibited thoughts, Sagan is remarkable for having built a career and even an entire science on making stuff up on the basis of no evidence, whatsoever.  "Exobiology" is something I used to call a pseudo-science but, as one of its true believers has pointed out to me, it is widely considered a science by other scientists and, perhaps even more definitive, it gets grants to study stuff. That the one thing that it cannot study because not the first bit of a hint that an actual specimen will ever be available to it, an organism of "other life" is the actual subject matter of exobiology, might indicate that what "science" is needs to be more rigorously considered.

That it was Sagan,  Mr. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" who invented "exobiology" and then went on to be the brightest star in the constellation of actual scientists in the group dedicated to enforcing that standard to ideas atheists don't like, is, to put it mildly, ironic.  To put it less mildly, it's another glaring  symptom of the fraud that organized skepticism is.  And that pseudo-skepticism was organized as a promotion and a support of atheism by Paul Kurtz, almost certainly with funding from the atheist ideologue and trust fund Stalinist, Corliss Lamont.   If you doubt that the entire thing is to promote atheism, go look at what its successor and satellite organizations dedicate most of their time to.


How important is this is provided to me by what might be rather casual evidence of synchronicity because as I have been typing this, the radio is on.  The program On The Media is dealing with the shooting down of Flight MH17.  The excellent host, Brooke Gladstone has just brought up the speculation that blames aliens for the mass murder being discussed in the media.  From what I understand it isn't only Putin's prostituted press that is doing that but it has been mentioned on American cabloid "news" as well.   While she and James Fallows can understandably make light of that absurd idea, that they find it useful to mention it shows that there are people both pushing and buying that bilge.  That she also mentions The Bermuda Triangle in the same question rightly places speculations about "other life" in the category of the entirely imagined.  I just thought I'd throw that in there to thicken the broth.


Since not even one other example of alien life is available to study, scientifically or casually, anything said about "other life" today is as imaginary as whatever is said about unicorns or leprechauns or even an interplanetary celestial teapot.  And, unlike those imaginary objects dealt with by mathematics, "other life" must be imagined as being alive.  And as living beings other lives, of necessity, have to be far more complex and detailed than numbers, sets of numbers and even the imaginary objects of geometry which must conform to our experience of dimensional reality as well as their imaginary perfection.  We have to imagine them metabolizing and, to make them more interesting so as to hold the imagination more successfully than pure mathematics for most people, reproducing.  Which multiplies the possibilities so vastly as to make the probability of successfully imagining correctly - without recourse to revelation - entirely unlikely.   Yet Carl Sagan talked other scientists, many of them as rigid materialists and pseudo-skeptic-atheists as he was, into accepting those improbable tall tales about them as science.  Call me skeptical but I don't think he could have done that while being an even excellent teacher at one of the excellent land grant universities of the mid-West or other region of the country.   It's a product of prestige and mutually reinforced social positioning.

All that would change with the availability of even resolvable artifacts of dead "other life" about which something definite could be said, though the massive and equally unfounded speculation, filling in the enormous gaps of what the lives of those organisms might have been will rival today's "exobiology" in its unfounded creative invention and certain assertion.  You can only really study the lives of organisms when you can see them alive in the environment that allows them to live and function with whatever other conditions or organisms they live with.  Which is something you can understand an astrophysicist with a specialty in planets might not get about the study of living organisms and their environments, you have to gape at the ability of biologists to suffer from the same oversight.   Without the ability to observe living organisms in their native environment even the massively popular idea that they evolved as life on Earth has is an entirely unfounded assumption.**  Yet that doesn't keep the "extraordinary evidence" cult from making up entire biospheres full of imaginary organisms to be believed in, rather fully.  I remember Sagan presenting all kinds of organisms he and a colleague made up to live on Jupiter, complete with 60s sci-fi cover art pictures of them.  And it was science.

That the pushback you can get from pointing out the gaping lapses in integrity for this stuff, set within the "Skepticism-Atheism-Scientism" industry and its informal branch in pop culture comes from people who pretend to be superior thinkers should be a source of much hilarity to the people they love to mock and make fun of.   They do exactly the same things they mock other people for doing, only they figure, since they do it all without God that makes it OK.  Which is one of the most common and, in other contexts, dangerous habits of thought that comes with atheism.  As I said, the key issue of atheism as the most important cultural requirement of modernism can unlock a lot of what's wrong with contemporary culture.  It seems to be all that is required to permit all kinds of stuff that is forbidden to those who believe in God.

*  Thinking it over, I decided to call a spade a spade and updated that sentence.  CSICOP, which has morphed into CSI and its myriad of other Paul Kurtz initiated groups are not "quasi-religious atheist groups"  they are religious atheist groups, with their own faith and dogma and doctrines and, as I pointed out, Indices of Prohibited Ideas.   That their god is the material universe and their method of  oracular prophesy is what they understand as constituting science matters not in the least in identifying them as religion.   Just to thicken the broth even more.

**  I wish I'd preserve the record of the brawl I got into over that point.  The typical atheist-materialist will insist that their fundamentalist interpretation of Darwinian natural selection must govern "other life" and the more hard bitten will insist that natural selection proves there must be "other life" and what it is like.   Especially nuts on the issue are those things that Daniel Dennett says, wanting to extend natural selection outside of biology, even in ways that are totally inconsistent with the logical necessities of Darwinian natural selection to even be possible.  And, note, he's a philosopher who should definitely have mastered the logical analysis necessary to see that point.   Atheism can blind people, in his case, I would guess it's the ideological usefulness of Darwin for atheism that makes him act like a snake oil hustler instead of a serious philosopher in that matter.  Since he's imagining all kinds of stuff on the basis of no evidence, he may as well make it maximally congenial to his ideological preference. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

J. S. Bach Passacaglia and Fugue in c minor BWV 582

Hans-Andre Stamm
Trost organ of the Stadtkirche in Waltershausen

This makes me wish I'd kept up the organ lessons when I was a teenager.  I'd probably have a job playing music today if I had.  This interpretation is pretty fine.


Update:  It's not terribly closely related but I've recently been listening more to Vincent Persichetti's music, a composer I'd pretty well neglected.  Here's his choral prelude on

Drop Drop Slow Tears

I'd resented Persichetti because I hated his 20th Century Harmony textbook so much when it was assigned for the advanced harmony class I took my Sophomore year.  His music is a lot better than his textbook.  I will admit, though,  it does have two of the best opening sentences ever found in a music textbook.

Any tone can succeed any other tone, any tone can sound simultaneously with any other tone or tones, and any group of tones can be followed by any other group of tones, just as any degree of tension or nuance can occur in any medium under any kind of stress or duration.  Successful projection will depend on the contextual and formal considerations that prevail and on the skill and the soul of the composer.

As I recall it goes immediately down hill from there. Though, looking at the book again for the first time in many decades, maybe there's more to it than I got out of it back when I was a brat.


Sr. Mildred Barker At Noon

Prove That A Proof Proves Anything: The Total Overselling of "Proof"

This matter of proofs of God's existence would seem to be important to a lot of people.  Proofs of God's existence are often demanded by those who really, really don't want them and are provided by those who believe they believe absolutely in a prophet who notably wasn't in the business of elucidating a proof of God's existence.

But the matter of what a proof is and what "to prove something" means is seldom considered.  The common belief that this thing called a "proof" provides an objective and unambiguous certainty that "a truth" provided by the proof is a complete and entirely reliable "thing" or condition of being or historical event, complete with its retinue of supporting and related "things"(quite often in themselves not "proven") and associated aspects of reality.  It is quite often and wrongly asserted that science provides proof of this or that.  Which is a claim made on their behalf that scientists careful with their claims and language - or, more often, forced to by rigorous debate opponents - will openly disclaim.  Oh, so often, their disclaimer is revealed to be disingenuous as soon as it's issued because they continue in encouraging the habit of thought that holds that science issues proof of stuff.   I will mention in passing that I have never read or encountered an ideologically campaigning atheist-scientist who doesn't talk out of both sides of their mouth on that point.

Really careful scientists will admit that mathematicians are the ones who are in the business of providing proofs, and the even more careful will point out that it is prudent to make that claim only about pure mathematics, in which the objects "proved" are abstract entities that exist only in the minds of those with sufficient learning in mathematics to contain those entities.  Which could reasonably lead someone who was either being extremely precise about the denotation of the words, or who wanted to give materialists a hard time, to say that this prime desideratum of theirs, "proof," would seem to be only available when dealing with imaginary objects and their imaginary properties.  And when the materialist or "physicalist" or, almost always, rather emotional atheist, hears that and associates it with the actual object of their attack, they don't like the implications and often get really pissy.

Jesus, if I'm remembering correctly in this hour before I'm supposed to be at work, didn't provide a logical "proof" of God or what he was saying.  He advised people to consult their own experience of life and events around them, to see the signs of the time.  In doing that he was being honest about something hardly anyone in the "proof" business is honest about.  "Proof" is a matter of being persuaded that all of those things allegedly provided by a proof in my second paragraph, proof is, in the words of the atheist and mathematician and scientist, Joseph Weizenbaum, a matter of human psychology and persuasion.

On that personal and willful act relies everything that we hold should be believed to be true and that belief should have a real effect in changing the behavior and thinking and feeling of the person who is persuaded.  "Proof" "a proof" is something that is done or experienced by a person and people, its existence happens only in human minds, it is something we pretend has some independent, allegedly objective existence, when its complete reliance on us and our most subjective experience is one of the most obvious aspects of "proof".   Prove that there is a proof that exists outside of human thought.  Prove that any proof that isn't the product of human thought and relies for its very existence on a subjective and willful act of individual persuasion.  If you can't do that then this objective, independent proof thing must be a delusion, by the very claims you make for proof and what the absence of such a proof insures.  Those who make proof the object of cult like devotion and search are the ones who are the most dishonest about what proof actually is, especially its dependence on subjective thought,that it has no real and objective existence independent of that subjective thought and it is also not unrelated to human desires and subject to human self-deception.

Proof is entirely a matter of persuasion, no matter how rigorous the proof is, in the end a person has to accept the proof and, as some of the most rigorous application of proof in the past century "proved" no matter how rigorous a stickler for proof that you hold yourself to be, your proof depends on things that can't be proven, that can't even enter into this business of proof.  The hero of materialists and atheists, Bertrand Russell, had to rather bitterly accept that was true, after years of some of the most rigorous thinking on the topic ever undertaken, he had to reluctantly accept it was true.   And at the same time he had to gloomily and bitterly accept that was also the direction that physics, the subject that dealt most rigorously with his ultimate reality, the material universe, was headed in the same direction.   Perhaps it was due to his habits of thought gained from being a mathematician that made him accept that when even so many of the physicists don't seem to be able to accept what their very science shows about the relationship of human minds and the subjects it studies.  When you want to press those issues, nothing that we can say about the physical universe isn't entirely reliant on our subjective will and experience because we use our minds to even perceive the objects physics deals with and there is no absolute proof available of any of it.

The law uses the word "proof" as in "a case being proved beyond a reasonable doubt" or  some such construction.   The looseness with which legal "proof" is accepted is best shown by those convicted of murders and executed only, later, to have someone else confess or shown to have committed the murder.   If you want to see how confident you should be in that brand of "proof" look at how prosecutors and judges who are in the dirty business of killing people that way resist looking at the quality of their proof when their actions are questioned.  If you want to really look at the con job that "proof" often contains in a real life context, look at the things that someone like Antonin Scalia has said which proves how sleazy and dishonest this proof stuff can be in the hands of a sleazy and dishonest person with power.  A proof that is held to be worthy of the greatest of respect and given the power to kill people can be as dishonest as that.  In the hands of physicists and other scientists, those have ever more power to get us all killed than Scalia could dream of in his most megalomaniac imaginings.  Such is the power and the quality of what proof provides when it is removed from the teachings of such folk as Jesus, held to be exempt from those by virtue of their higher proofyness, or something.   Allowing that exemption is both illogical and insane.

No, even in this business of proof, you're stuck with making a choice on the basis of will and in the absence of the comfort that comes with a real instead of your merely imagined absolute and totally reliable truth.  You're stuck with that because that's all it is, despite all imaginary assertions to the contrary.

Update:  I should be out the door but it occurred to me that the question I asked yesterday, why shouldn't scientists predict that they're going to find "alien" life in the next 28 seconds as opposed to their predicted two decades, is a good illustration.   Predictions of something with an expiration date of 28 seconds can be subjected to reality and stand the chance of being debunked in rather real time as opposed to that imagined world twenty years from now.  By then the budget for the project they are promoting will have been spent in the lost and forgotten past, even as their almost promised results are unachieved and, likely, forgotten.  I doubt that any of them still alive and working at NASA will be the ones to bring it up.   They don't want to do a truth test of their sciency assertions quite on that short a time scale.  The one going into six figures, not very urgent when you're asking for an appropriation in this congress.   What they expect to do with these aliens they predict they are going to find might be a question to ask.  As I've asked before, what if the aliens are 1. smarter than us, 2. fervently religious?   What if they think our science is extremely dangerous Plutonium Age delusion?   That going to impress the high and sciency?

Update:   An unpublished comment says, " I never realized before that there really isn't any way to know if we are actually living in The Matrix."  Apparently that's supposed to make what I said above officially stupid.   I am only very vaguely aware of this "Matrix" that is referred to in the comment, since I haven't gone to see a movie in, literally more than two decades and don't do the lowest of filmed sci-fi.   But if the idea that we are all in a matrix is stupid then he unwittingly agrees with me about contemporary cosmology since a  kind of"matrix" universe is all the rage just now.  I mean, it's published in freakin' Nature!  But, then, everything he says is unwitting.   About that hologram stuff, I doubt it and I doubt it will last five years.  Which would seem to be about as long as any scheme of cosmology lasts these days.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers: Along Came Betty

Art Blakey - drums
Robin Eubanks - trombone
Philip Harper - trumpet
Javon Jackson - tenor sax
Bennie Green - piano
Peter Washington - bass

Example of The Below

NASA: We will find alien life within 20 years

At NASA's Washington headquarters on Monday, a panel of space program scientists announced their estimation that humans will find extraterrestrial life within 20 years, going as far as to say that the estimate is a "conservative" one.

NASA outlined its plan to search for alien life and said it would launch the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite in 2017. The agency predicts that as many as 100 million worlds in the Milky Way galaxy may be home to alien life.

Why 20 years?  Why not within the next 28 seconds?  Or 22,958 years?  They're as founded in reality as 20 years.   The 100 million worlds are home to "alien life" line is ridiculous, as well.  Not because it might not be absolutely accurate but predicting such a number on a known example of 1 in the billions of planets in the Milky Way which has life on it doesn't allow you to make any kind of speculation. Every single planet outside of or within the Solar System could have life on it, there being no way to know if all life or any other life is like our kind.  Or the Earth could be the only planet in the entire universe with life on it.  That's a pretty wide range of possibilities from which to winnow it down to even 100 million in the entire universe, never mind one galaxy.  To think that scientists are going to find one in the next 20 years based on any kind of expertise is ridiculous.  They would probably come up with as good an estimate from randomly choosing a stream of numbers from a random numbers generator and putting a percent sign after it.

As to the assertion I read that the guys pulling this one out of the astronomical odds being "experts" on this topic, there simply are no "experts" on a topic which has absolutely no verifiable examples to base any expertise on.   You have my permission to declare yourselves experts on skeantisynteyology.  It's a very, very specialized and esoteric study based on a bunch of letters I just typed into my computer with -ology attached to it.  In fact, you don't need my permission, I'm no expert in skeantisynteyology.

This isn't science.  It isn't mathematics.  It certainly isn't news.  It's NASA's famous PR promotion of its funding.   It is, however, apparently enough to get Ken Ham his own PR opportunity which has his name on the online mags and the blog threads.

When A Smattering Of Ignorance Is All That Is Available To The Cosmologists Why Should The Ignorant Be Slammed For Their Ignorance

Someone likes to tell me when I'm getting dissed on certain other blogs, which I've gotten a number of posts from and I expect I will in the future.   Deciding to try for something different, I won't go into what was said about me in response to this comment by "Billy B" but will just deal with what the comment says.

Kirk Cameron on Steven Hawking:
Cameron tells us, “Professor Hawking is heralded as ‘the genius of Britain,’ yet he believes in the scientific impossibility that nothing created everything and that life sprang from non-life.”
He adds, “Why should anyone believe Mr. Hawking’s writings if he cannot provide evidence for his unscientific belief that out of nothing, everything came?”
… “[Hawking] says he knows there is no Heaven. John Lennon wasn’t sure. He said to pretend there’s no Heaven. That’s easy if you try. Then he said he hoped that someday we would join him. Such wishful thinking reveals John and Stephen’s religious beliefs, not good science.”
Kirk Cameron's IQ is lower than that of Steven Hawkings' dandruff.

Longtime readers of this blog will probably know that the dissing of me hinged, not on Hawking but on Lennon.  But I won't go into that, yet again (you can search my blog at the top bar if you're interested).

don't believe I'd ever heard of Kirk Cameron before opening the e-mail and had to look him up.   He's some child TV actor who was on a sit com I never watched and don't remember hearing of, who has developed into a religious fundamentalist, apparently.  If I'm wrong about that, I would expect to hear about my ignorance.   I don't know that he's especially stupid though it wouldn't surprise me if he isn't one of the vast majority of people who isn't as clever as Steven Hawking, who is decidedly intelligent.   Though, especially when they are speaking outside of their specialty, even the most brilliant person is quite capable of being a complete idiot.  I could make a list of eminent scientists who say stupid things outside of their tiny specialty but that would be a bit more specialized than I want to be in this post.

Whatever else you can say about Billy B's point, he stayed safely off of the question and stayed on the topic of the intelligence of Cameron as opposed to Hawking, but neither he nor the response to him that I was sent addressed the question.

 “Why should anyone believe Mr. Hawking’s writings [ I guess on the topic of whether or not there is a God, a heaven, etc.] if he cannot provide evidence for his unscientific belief that out of nothing, everything came?”

Whether or not Cameron is as stupid as a mud fence is reputed to be ugly, that's not a stupid question, in fact, the issue of how atheists can come up with everything out of nothing is something that I've yet to hear even the smartest among them begin to address.  There is a long and involved debate between the cosmologist Sean Carroll and the philosopher-theologian William Lane Craig on that issue and it's 1. extremely hard going just understanding what they're discussing, 2. the farthest thing from a settled question, 3. fraught with some of the hardest and most impenetrable questions of the philosophical bases of how we can even begin to address ultimate questions, never mind the issues of advanced physics that can only be theoretical because they go past the point where it can even be confidently asserted that physics is relevant.

William Lane Craig* is someone who a lot of online idiots who are atheists dismiss but he is a major and respected philosopher with a specialty in the subject of time and I've seen him mop the floor with eminent physicists who have debated him.   He routinely comes to those debates far better prepared to discuss the issues and the arguments of his opponents than any of them have yet bothered to prepare to debate him.   As I've pointed out here before, someone as accomplished as Lawrence Krauss was reduced to sputtering inanities and insults during one of those debates.   Another prominent atheist who was wise enough to admit Craig's brilliance was Christopher Hitchens, who didn't make the mistake of relying on a a position within the upper hierarchy of science instead of actually preparing to debate him.  Of course, Richard Dawkins famously chickened out of debating him at all.

And even other massively intelligent and brilliant physicists and mathematicians have been extremely critical of Hawking, especially his more recent stuff.  Peter Woit is the one whose criticism is what I'm most familiar with.  Though he is hardly the only one whose criticisms of Hawking's speculations entirely past where there is any possibility of evidence to support his contentions.  What I can understand of that carries the quite disturbing demand by Hawking that his branch of speculation get to be science without any possibility of verification in physical evidence at all.  Something which isn't that far removed in terms of intellectual dishonesty from the evolutionary psychology of Dawkins, which, also cannot be verified through the impossibility of observing the evidence he would need to support his speculations.

But that's a far remove from the world of blog commentators who only know whose side is whose and accept or reject statements about how everything came from nothing based, not on the first bit of knowledge about the issues and arguments - there is actually no evidence of how that could happen so logical gymnastics are all you can use in the arguments.

The issue of a universe coming from a "nothing" that is an actual "nothing" and not some thing that an atheist ideologue wants to call "nothing" so they can claim to have done what they haven't done (Lawrence Krauss, for one) is entirely important to atheists who want to argue that they've disposed of the need for The Creator of the universe.  It's also the motive for multi-universes, especially the most absurd one in which there are jillions of universes being created with every letter I type and with every character I redact, so they can pretend that the truly interesting and suggestive "fine-tuning" argument is irrelevant, since they can't seem to dispose of the incredibly fine-tuned one universe we actually have some evidence of.

I am hardly a specialist in this area but I have tried to understand those few issues in these arguments that are within my limited grasp.  I'd never pretend that I have any idea of wow everything could come from nothing or even judge which side has the better arguments in that issue.   One of the points which Craig has made was that if the universe came spontaneously from the "nothings" that various atheist apologists have asserted, on the basis of whatever, why doesn't other stuff just spontaneously and continually come out of that same "nothing".  Which strikes me as only one of the good questions he has asked in those debates.

You can't pretend to have dismissed a question by asserting that the question is stupid.  If someone wanted to criticize Kirk Cameron for presuming to have a scientific answer to the question of how the universe came into being, whether it came out of real nothing or one of the somethings that atheists like Krauss and, I supect, Carroll, insist that they, by virtue of their greater and authoritative sciencyness get to call "nothing"**or how any of the various schemes that atheists and even non-atheist cosmologists come up with so they can ignore that they can't answer those questions stackes up to reality, that criticism of Cameron's question is absolutely legitimate.  I'll point out that it is as legitimate when it is an eminent cosmologist-atheist ideologue who pretends to be able to answer those questions.  If, on the other hand, you want to dismiss questioning of those cosmologists on the basis that someone who brings up the question is a stupid-head with cooties, no, that's not a serious basis for intellectual conduct.

*  Craig is a major target of some of the more ridiculous atheist libel and slander that you can find online.  I have major disagreements with him on religion and, I would expect, politics, but he is a brilliant debater and a very respectable philosopher and thinker.

**  They can't deal with a real nothing because there is nothing in a real nothing for the universe to have spontaneously come from.  Related to that is the very good point that Craig makes that if there is an eternal past for the universe to have come from the entire ensemble of "universes" that those cosmologists posit would have had to have wound down in the infinite past before now due to that second law of thermodynamics that the same cosmologists don't want to do without.   I have no idea how that could either be true or false but if they want to include that in their scheme of things, it would seem to be a valid and impossible to overcome problem with it.  

Now I've got to get back to work.

Update:   For RMJ

The lame excuse that Richard Dawkins gave for refusing to debate William Lane Craig, for which he was critisized for his cowardice by his fellow atheist Daniel Came, Lecturer in Philosophy at Oxford and other universities.  There were other prominent atheists who slammed Dawkins for his cowardice.   Here's the event where Lane would have debated Dawkins.